County purchases parkland west of De Soto
In a move that should have profound consequences for the future landscape of De Soto, the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District has purchased a half-section of property just west of De Soto.
Bill Maasen, park district land acquisition specialist, said April 2 the park district closed on 255 acres of property owned by the Rieke family and another 115 acres owned by the Dickens trust. The $4.9 million purchase is west of Sunflower Road and north of Kansas Highway 10.
The tract, which Maasen characterized as beautiful, is a mix of grassland and timber on gently rolling terrain overlooking the Kansas River valley to the immediate north.
The park district did not have plans as to how it would develop the property, Maasen said.
"We're just trying to take advantage of some opportunities," he said. "It won't be open to the public, because we don't have any facilities to entertain the public."
The park district had aggressively purchased land after the County Commission granted the district 1.09 mills for parkland acquisition in its 2003 budget. Much of that property was seen as needed to fill future needs, and Maasen said the park district did not have the money to plan, maintain or upgrade much of the newly acquired land.
The De Soto site was not part of the park district's just-approved five-year capital improvement plan and any development was probably five years down the road, Maasen said. Any planning and development of the site would be coordinated with De Soto city officials, he said.
Although easily visible from K-10, the site is currently somewhat isolated by the Sunflower easement road and the Intervet Inc. campus to the east, the freeway to the south, and the steep bluffs to the north.
The property included the 30-acre Rieke Lake, which was nearly the same size as the lake in Kill Creek Regional Park three miles south of De Soto.
"It was built correctly," Maasen said. "It has a couple of silt ponds to keep it clean. It's very similar in structure to Kill Creek Lake. It has a rock bottom and is about 30 feet deep."
City officials, including Mayor Dave Anderson, were informed of the negotiation and didn't raise any objections to the purchase, Maasen said.
Anderson said the purchase would be an asset to De Soto in the future. Among the topics he talked about with Maasen was the possible future annexation of the property into the city.
De Soto's just-completed comprehensive plan designated the property's future land use as low- to moderate-density residential. Anderson said the purchase -- coupled with possible development at Sunflower -- could make residential growth more attractive to the west despite the removal of 360 acres from possible development.
"I don't see the development prohibits development farther to the west," he said. "I think it will add to the attraction of the property around it."